Power tariff hike this month

Dhaka — The energy regulator, Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC), on Monday said it will make an announcement in the first week of January regarding its decision on further power tariff raise.“We’ll take a decision in the first week of the next month,” Member of the energy watchdog Selim Mahmud said at a press conference after the end of a three-day-long public hearing on the proposals of five power distribution companies for raising power prices.
After the day’s hearing, the BERC technical evaluation committee recommended hike for tariff of two more companies, after having recommended similar hikes for two other companies a day ago.
The panel on Monday said the Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) could make profits if it hiked price by 3.30 percent. It also recommended a 3.65percent increase in the power tariff of the Dhaka Electric Supply Company (DESCO).
After Sunday’s public hearing, the panel said the Power Development Board (PDB) could make profits if it hiked power rates by 4.87 percent, while it recommended a 4.15percent raise in the rates of the West Zone Power Distribution Company Ltd (WZPDCL) to help overcome it losses.
The DESCO in its proposal requested the BERC to raise the power tariffs at the consumer level by an average of 11.69 percent while the DPDC proposed an 11.31 percent increase. The PDB and the WZPDCL proposed 12 and 9.59 percent increase, respectively.
The evaluation committee on Dec 27 had opposed a proposal of the PDB for raising electricity tariff at the consumer level by an average of nine percent.
Consumers, industrialists and representatives of the political parties, who had attended the public hearing, however, opposed fresh rise power tariff.
Professor Shamsul Alam, Energy Advisor to the Consumers’ Association of Bangladesh (CAB), said, “The recent situation hints that a fresh hike in power prices could push the country towards political crisis. And it’s the consumers who would mostly be affected if any political crisis arises.”
He said there was no need to raise the ‘capability of the companies’ by collecting ‘additional money’ from the consumers.
Joint Secretary of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce M A Rahim Khan said, “The growth of export earnings is on a downtrend. The production will get costlier if the power prices are raised in this circumstance. This will also reduce competitiveness of the companies.”
“Besides, workers will raise demands for increase in their wages if the power prices are hiked. In a nutshell, a disorder could come about in the industrial sector,” he added.
The government on Sept 1 raised power price at retail level by 15 percent to by 75 paise from the previous rate of Tk 5 a unit (a kilowatt of electricity), while the tariff at bulk level was raised by 17 percent to Tk 4.70 from Tk 4.02 a unit.
Later, the five power distribution companies sent proposals to the energy regulator asking for hike in their power rates.
The BERC held a public hearing on their proposals at its office on Monday. BERC Director (Power Division) Abul Kashem, who is also convenor of the evaluation panel, said at the hearing that it was essential to increase the power tariff of the two distribution companies.
However, the BERC would take a final decision in this regard later.
Erstwhile BERC Chairman Yusuf Hossain at a press conference on Sep 20 had said that despite fresh rise in bulk power prices, the power sector would need Tk 38.50 billion in subsidies in the current fiscal.
After the present government took the office in Jan 2009, it raised power prices seven times.
But the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been asking the government to increase power tariff to eliminate financial losses to power companies and public enterprises, which burden public finances and pose a threat to macro-economic stability.
(Source: bdnews24.com)

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